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29 posts from February 2006

Keep my heart somewhere drugs don't go...

Have you ever read a news headline and thought, "Wow! That's going to be a great story!" only to encounter the sad reality that it's just... well... boring.

I realize it's completely intentional as the job of any headline writer is to suck a person into reading it. That's how newspapers get sales and Web-based news sites get hits, right? Sorry, but it just frustrates me to know that the fantasy inherent in reading news headlines is typically so much better than the reality.

Take, for example, the following headline I found just now on my Yahoo homepage...

American wheelchair player banned 3-1/2 months for doping

Wheelchairsyringe How do you interpret this headline? For me, I instantly thought that there was a wheelchair-bound athlete who was shooting up 'roids in order to place better in marathon races or drive harder in basketball games.

I found myself asking, "buddy, was it really worth it?"

I thought, "what a shame that someone that could so easily serve as a role model to physically handicapped of the world is busted for juicing up."

I know the justification that pro athletes use for shooting up steroids... the money. In some sports, the stronger you are, the better you perform. That translates to greater excitement, more butts in the seats, more money in the coffers, and, eventually, higher-paying contracts. Just ask Barry Bonds.

I never saw this being an issue for Special Olympians who, correct me if I'm wrong, do not play for money and have minimal endorsement opportunities, at best. Not saying they don't deserve them. God knows I'd be more inspired if Wheaties featured someone who has overcome that kind of adversity as opposed to a play-it-for-me pro.

Then I read the article. Following is the full text...

LONDON (Reuters) - An American wheelchair player has been banned for 3-1/2 months by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for cannabis.

David Buck, 46, from Silverado, California, tested positive with a sample given at the U.S. Open wheelchair championships in San Diego in October, the ITF said in a statement on Tuesday.

That's it.

First, they suck me in with a completely enthralling headline that plays on the whole steroid craze that has been occuring in professional sports over the last decade plus but spun for a sector of athletics you would never think about only to find out that it's merely a marijuana offense. Okay, I should not downplay the illegality of marijuana like that, but I was expecting so much more from the story.

Second, they give you no real details whatsoever. No quotes from sources. No tie ins to other related stories. No nothing.

How boring.

And this was on Yahoo's frontpage. Must be a blah news day.

Not to mention a blah blogging day. I'm suffering such horrible writer's block right now. I hope March blasts in with a wave of creativity for yours truly.


The best things in life are the simple things...

I don't usually link to stuff like this when I receive RSS updates, but, for some reason, I clicked on this one from TUAW and am so happy I did.

This is a video of how iPod packaging would look if redesigned by marketers from Microsoft. Damn, is it funny. And oh-so-true.

YouTube - Microsoft iPod Packaging Parody

That is one of the great things about Apple, they realize that simplicity is a virtue.

I only wish this could be resaved as a stand-alone movie file so people with video iPods could watch it on the go and share with non-believers.


Everybody hurts... sometimes...

People die.

I hate to be so blunt about it, but that's the way it is.

And, since we all became connected on the Web, it seems like we hear about death more often than ever before. Such and such actor or actress died... some politician collapses... a beloved athlete loses his battle with some incurable disease... a musician ends their life... the list goes on and on.

But, because of the Web and the proliferation of this sort of news, I think we are not nearly as affected by it as we might normally be. Reading about death becomes so commonplace that we have become completely, and unfortunately, immune to it. Mortality desensitization of a sort, I suppose.

That's the way it seems for me anyway. I read about all these people that have died and maybe I shrug my shoulders... perhaps I call Katie at work to tell her... sometimes I might read into it a bit more.

But rarely do I blog about it.

Before today, I only blogged about a few "celebrity" deaths. One was John Ritter because I was deeply affected by his death. He was one of my favorite actors growing up. I was a junkie for Three's Company as a kid and I watched a lot of his later stuff, as well, and always seemed to like the guy. His passing was a terrible thing for me. There were also the deaths of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in relatively close succession. I still think they are the greatest on-screen duo of all time. The final, however, was some actor whose name eludes me at the moment. I only blogged about him because he committed suicide and it had been so long since I had heard his name that it caught me offguard. I'll have to scour my archives and see if I can figure out who it was.

Then, this weekend happened.

And two other actors who were part of my childhood passed away as well.

The first was Don Knotts who died Friday. As I said, I was a huge Three's Company fan and he, as Mr. Furley, was just as important to that show as Ritter's Jack Tripper. The interplay between the two of them was enough to keep me amused for hours. As I grew up, I discovered his other great work such as The Andy Griffith Show. But, to me, he will always be Mr. Furley.

The second was Darren McGavin who passed away on Saturday. According to IMDb, the guy amassed an amazing list of acting credits that rivaled just about anybody (well over 150 credits, including starring and guest spots in movies and TV shows). However, I will always remember him as the leg lamp-lusting father in what is singularly the greatest holiday movie of all time, A Christmas Story.

It may not be all that big a deal to many out there. Some may shrug it off as just another Hollywood death much like I have to so many other celebrities in the past.

But, to me, these two are something else altogether. These are two passings that I will remember and personally mourn because they are significant to me.


Some say I've got a bad attitude...

Two corporations are currently the target of my wrath right now... Best Buy and UPS.

Just before Christmas, Katie and I took in an iPod that belonged to her brother, Steven, to Best Buy for warranty repair work. We took it in because we had purchased the iPod for him and the receipt and, therefore, the warranty were in our names. 

A few weeks ago, we got a call saying that the iPod was back in the store and fixed. However, since we took it up to the Best Buy in Crystal Lake, a good 45 minutes to an hour from here, getting there to pick it up has been a problem. Katie's family hasn't had the time to go in and we haven't had the time to trek it up there. And, since Steven got a new iPod for Christmas, there hasn't been a rush to get it.

So, Best Buy's been calling constantly about picking it up and leaving all kinds of messages. On Wednesday, they left a particularly nasty one on our answering machine in which they said, "I would've thought your iPod would be more important to you and you would've picked it up by now."

That was the last straw for Katie who called that Best Buy, found the CSR that left the message, and tore him a new asshole. Actually, she explained our situation calmly and rationally, yet of firm tone and wrought with comments that had him apologizing profusely and proceeded to ask if there was any way they could either ship it to us directly or transfer it to our local store. They said no, that it was against their policy and they could not guarantee that it would ship okay, yadda, yadda, yadda.

On Thursday, I came home and saw a UPS shipping notice stuck to our front door. It stated that a driver had attempted to deliver a package from Best Buy shipped Next Day Air (not that Crystal Lake to Geneva requires "air" treatment, per se) and we were not around to sign for it. And this was serious as it was a "signature required in person" sort of deal.

I called the 800 number and spoke with a CSR about how we would be able to sign for it. I explained that we are never home during the day and only a couple nights per week during reasonable hours. Then I asked if it would be possible for them to deliver it after 5:00 p.m. or on Saturday.

Nope. They never deliver past 5:00 or on weekends at all.

So I asked if they would allow me to sign the slip they left for me and they could just leave the package. Again, nope.

My patience was running thin about now.

Finally, they offered me the option of delivering to an alternate address. Despite the fact that all our mail at work is funneled through a mailroom, I thought maybe they would still deliver it directly to the house in which I work. They said fine and that it would be delivered to my work address on Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Care to guess what happened next? If you were thinking that it was never delivered, you'd be correct.

I called them again from work just a few minutes before 5:00 p.m. and, since I didn't have the slip with delivery number on it, I had to wait while they searched for it on the computer. Hey, I figured I could rely on them to deliver it, so why have the slip?

They finally found the computer entry and discovered, much to my chagrin but coming as no surprise, that they attempted to deliver it to my house again. So, despite the fact that the CSR told me it would be transferred the next day to the new address, it never was. There just wasn't enough time to make the transfer (all 12 miles of it).

And I now have to wait until Monday to receive the package. Or I could drive what I would assume to be over an hour away to Addison (wherever the hell that is) and pick it up from the "nearby" UPS delivery center.

I am not happy for two reasons:

  1. Why the hell would Best Buy tell Katie it was against their policy to ship it out and then go ahead and do so the next day without informing us one way or the other? If we had known they were actually going to ship it using a signature required method, we would have told them to hold on to it.
  2. Why in God's name doesn't UPS make special allowances for these signature-required deliveries? Don't they realize people work? Why can't you sign the delivery notice? Or why can't they deliver after 5:00 p.m. or on Saturdays? This is just ridiculous considering the percentage of households in America these days that have dual incomes with both people working during "normal business hours."

I hate them both right about now. And this despite the fact that my uncle has worked for UPS for roundabouts 20 years now. But he's a jet mechanic and not a delivery guy, so it's okay.

Sorry, UB. Just stating my mind.

Today's post brought to you by The AP Style Guide...
As per the comment on yesterday's post by WG, I am attempting to phase out my use of double spacing after periods and colons. It's something that I've done for so long that it's hard to just stop. I'm not mad at him for pointing it out as it is something that I need to work on especially since we switched this part of our style guide at work as well. His comment just reminded me that maybe I should try it in all aspects of my life so it will come easier when it's necessary.

So I'm going to make a conscious effort to phase that out. Hope I caught them all here.

God, it's weird trying to stop my thumb from hitting the spacebar in quick succession.


If you can't do the math, then nothing adds up...

Wanna hear something funny about me?

I can design Web sites using HTML coding or any number of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors such as Dreamweaver, Frontpage, etc.

I can do graphic design using Illustrator, Photoshop, and QuarkXPress (Dave, you'll be happy to learn that my office is ordering InDesign for us).

I troubleshoot myriad types of problems on both Mac OS and Windows.

I've even taken part in computer networking.

I've done things with computers that many lay users can't even fathom.

But I have never set up a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. 

MiscmacexcelOne of the most basic things that can be done with one of the pieces of the Microsoft Office puzzle, and I've never done it.  Never had to do it for classes.  Never had to do it for work.  Never even had to do it for personal finances.

Simply put, I've just never had cause to use Excel for anything other than setting up a pseudo-database of names and addresses for the purpose of mail merging address labels in MS Word.

Yet, now I have to learn it. 

For the Managing Information Technology course in my MBA program, we are supposed to set up a Web page as a term project.  Well, since that's what I do for a living and I made the damn-fool mistake of telling my prof this, I am exempt from it.  Typically, that might be a good thing.  But, he decided to find a new project for me to do to make up for this grading deficiency.  And, since working with a pivot table (don't ask) was the one class lab exercise I had trouble with... setting up an Excel spreadsheet became that replacement.

And I'm not liking it one bit.

I've had all my classmates tell me that it's easy.  My best friend laughed at me when he heard I'd never worked with Excel before.  Even my wife had taken a class in it way back when (unfortunately, she hasn't used it since so the knowledge has escaped her).

Despite all my extensive computer experience, I feel like a complete moron.

What's wrong with me?


Oh lord, please don't let me be misunderstood...

First of all, I need to congratulate Jacynth who posted the 1,000th comment on my blog.  Wow... 1,000.  That's pretty weird to think about.  Thank you to all my family, friends, and blog buddies out there for keeping me motivated to constantly post and garner these comments.  The immediacy of comment feedback really does make this whole thing worthwhile.  I'm sure almost any blogger would agree.

Again, congrats, Jacynth!

And, if you were still up in the air about participating in the Grassroots Blogger Book Marketing Campaign, I now have reason why you should shed any doubts and take part in the festivities.

Three words: We. Have. Prizes.

Yes, that's right, we have a prize benefactor in the form of the author of The Lost Blogs, Paul Davidson.  He e-mailed me saying that he would be more than willing to play Judge/Jury/Executioner (only kidding, about the last part) and pick the three best blogs during the promotional period.  Those three select individuals will be receiving a autographed, first-edition of The Lost Blogs.  How cool is that?

However, there is one catch.  His publisher is hoping to not have any of the historical figures that Paul has represented in his book be duplicated in our blogs.  There are quite a few that Paul has covered and I have the list.  But, I do not want to ruin the surprise by listing them all here.  So, if you are interested, e-mail me or leave a comment, and I'll check the list to see if your choice works or not.

And, after seeing this list, I can definitely say I'm looking forward to reading it.

Lostblogsbadge_2 Since there is still plenty of time before this contest happens, I would like to ask that you try to hype it up a bit if at all possible.  I have even created a nifty little badge that you can use to promote the contest.  I would really like to see several more people become involved.  As it stands, with only four participants, all but one of us will be receiving a book.  And, while that bodes well for our chances, I'd still like to see the competition level increased.

All I ask is that you link the badge back to the original contest post (http://kapgar.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/02/im_just_a_soul_.html) so we can keep an accurate list of contest participants.

I really think this can be something fun to try out even if you don't know Paul.  And, if you do a good job, you get free stuff.  How can you go wrong?


Hello, is it me you're looking for?

I'm a man.

I have all the necessary anatomical requirements to be a man.

I've lived my life knowing, or at least being led to believe I'm a man.

That being said, Web sites such as myheritage.com make me start to wonder.

MyHeritage offers an online facial recognition package to which you upload a headshot of yourself and it will scan a list of celebrities in its database to determine who your features most represent.

The results of my scan were disturbing to say the least.

And I have Jacynth to blame for ruining my life.

I uploaded the following photo of myself to the database.  No, not the best photo, admittedly.  I am goatee-less and, well, it's just not good.  But they wanted a hi-res shot, preferably face on and this is the best one I had on me that doesn't have me and Katie really close together and, thus, screw up the scanning algorithm that seemingly cannot distinguish between two faces.

Misckevinheritageshot_1

And here is the list of celebrities the site spit back at me...

Miscmyheritage

First, do note the unhealthily weighted female to male ratio here.  Only two guys?  C'mon!  Now, the individual analysis...

Eva Longoria - you're kidding me, right?  Umm... how?

Jesse Metcalfe - well, there are worse-looking guys out there I could bear resemblance to, I suppose.

Katie Holmes - is this pre- or post-discovery of Tom Cruise and Scientology?

Kathleen Turner - considering that this site is making me question my gender idenification, I guess it's appropriate that they pick the actress who portrayed Chandler Bing's transvestite dad, eh?

Neve Campbell - could they pick a worse photo?

Mischa Barton - again, you're kidding me, right?  Although the anorexic-level weight loss might be nice.

Ashlee Simpson - could've been Jessica.  That's all I'm saying. Take it for what you will.

Michelle Rodriguez - the girl could beat my ass into a bloody pulp and you're gonna insult her by saying she and I somehow look alike?!?!  I'm suing MyHeritage for reckless endangerment!

Rachel Weisz - why do they have to pick the ones I think are cute and thus ruin my mental image of them?  Now, any time I watch The Mummy, I'm going to see my head on her body.  What a crying shame.

Cliff Richard - one of only two guys in my results and I have no flippin' clue who he is.

Oh, and I chose this line from Lionel Richie's "Hello" because, if you recall, the video featured a blind woman sculpting a bust of Lionel's head just from feeling his face.  And, the only way I can explain the facial comparisons that MyHeritage came back with is that their site is run by a bunch of blind... well, something or others.

Yes, I'd like one gender identity crisis with a side of french fries, to go, please.


I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...

How would all of you like to take part in a marketing campaign?

Or, more specifically, a Grassroots Blogger Book Marketing Campaign, or GBBMC for short?

Well, this is your opportunity to get involved on the ground floor and it costs you nothing but a little time each day doing what you already do best... blogging.

This is an idea I came up with while going for a walk today during my lunch break and it involves a fellow blogger that many of you already know and love.  If you don't, then you should really check out his site.  It is Paul Davidson, the wit behind Words For My Enjoyment.

Misclostblogs Paul is also a published writer and his second book, The Lost Blogs: From Jesus to Jim Morrison, is due to be released to the book-whoring public on May 8, 2006 (you can preorder it from Amazon.com, among other online booksellers now).  The book covers how blogs by some of the most famous people in the world might read.

It really is an interesting concept and I look forward to reading it (yes, Pauly, I will place my preorder soon, I promise).  And, in an attempt to help get word out about this book, I am proposing that we, as Pauly's fellow bloggers, readers, and fans, start our own pseudo-celebrity blogs.

Here are the rules I am establishing for this GBBMC...

  1. You must blog every day for one week straight from Monday, April 10 to Friday, April 14, 2006, as your historical figure of choice.  I have chosen weekdays since there are a lot of bloggers out there who avoid blogging on weekends like the plague.  I don't want to scare them off this campaign before it even starts by making them blog at a time when they typically prefer not to.
  2. Actually, widen that a little bit... you may blog either as the historical figure or as someone close to them.  If you've ever read Giles Foden's The Last King of Scotland, you have an idea what I'm talking about.  His entire book was a fictional memoir of a Scottish doctor who worked, against his will, as the personal physician to Idi Amin Dada.  Really good book that I recommend highly.  If you opt for the latter of the two options, the character you choose, much like in Foden's book, does not need to be real; but the person they are "close to" must be real.
  3. Do not directly reveal who the historical subject is in your blog entries.  Let people guess who it is in the comments.  At the end of the week, you can reveal it.  Even if someone correctly guesses the ID on Tuesday, hold off on the reveal.  Let's make this fun for everyone else.  Just make sure you don't make it impossible.  Dropping clues to your character's identity is fine.  For example, I might sign off each entry with my character's initials, so long as they don't give away the person's ID (I haven't chosen who it's going to be yet).  If you would like to give some kind of prize to the winner, that's your option.  I'm not providing prizes for you to give away.  And, since this is something being done outside of Warner Books' normal promotional circles, don't expect them to provide prizes either.
  4. You do not need to give up your regular blog posting during this week.  You can either post these GBBMC posts as entirely separate entries, or post them together with your regular entry but using some means to set it off as different.  Kinda like what Dave did when he posted his A Very Lego Holiday Tale this past December.  How you choose to distinguish it is up to you, but you should make it clear to your readers so they don't think you have multiple personality disorder or are in the midst of an identity crisis.
  5. You can take whatever creative approach you want with your posts.  If you opt to blog as though you are back in their time period, fine.  If you prefer to defy the space-time continuum and pull a Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure by bringing the character to the modern day, so be it.  But you must remain consistent in your setting throughout the week.  Don't have the person skipping all over time and space, unless you are H.G. Wells in which case time travel might be appropriate.
  6. Each entry should end with some kind of line that links back to Paul's book (the preorder link near the top of this post).  After all, this is a marketing campaign for his book, right?  Only seems appropriate.  Perhaps something along the lines of "Want to read what other people from history might blog, then pre-order Paul Davidson's The Lost Blogs now!" 
  7. It might also behoove you to preface each post with a link to either this explanatory post or one of your own.  You never know if someone might find your blog in the middle of the campaign and, again, think you have MPD.  Just covering all bases here.

Yes, this sounds like an odd idea.  Even I kinda laughed it off when I first thought about it.  But as I kept walking on through my lunch break and contemplated who I could be and what I would say, the idea progressively sounded better and better.  I'm actually looking forward to it despite the fact that I'm not sure who I will be.

So, before you laugh it off, take some time to think about it.  There is plenty of time to decide if you want to take part in it.  And if you do opt to participate, I will have a nifty little badge designed for you to place on your blog.

But I will take this a step further.  I know I have friends who would dig this sort of thing but do not maintain a blog of their own.  If a non-blogger friend of mine is interested, I will post their entries on my own blog.  If you have friends in the same situation, maybe you can open up your blog to them as well.  No, I don't mean give them username/password access, but just have them e-mail their entries to you and you post them.

If you are, in fact, interested, leave a comment on this post.  I will have this post permalinked on my homepage so you can find it easily if you make your decision a little later down the road.  I want to maintain a list at the end of this entry with the participants and links to their blogs so people can find them easily.

Oh, and until Pauly reads this post, he has no idea I'm doing this.  He did not recruit me in any way whatsoever.  All my idea; whether it's a good one remains to be seen.  And, Pauly, if this violates some kind of promotional contract you have with Warner Books, let me know and I'll kill it.

Anybody interested?


Participants (updated Monday, April 10):

  1. Kapgar (Me)
  2. Blogography (Dave)
  3. Who Do I Have To F#$@ To Get Laid? (Mikey)
  4. Internal Monoblog (Sandra)
  5. Two Thoughts Before the Epiphany (Rabbit)
  6. Take Me As I Blog (Jacynth)
  7. I Found a Fatal Flaw in the Logic of Love (Alissa)
  8. In a Kingdom by the Sea (Annabel Lee)
  9. The Seinfeldian (H.F. Peterman)
  10. Whirled Peas (Ms. Q)
  11. Groove Bunny (Wabbit)
  12. Ninja Poodles (Belinda)
  13. Taste the World (C.M. Chase)
  14. Afraid of Diving (Nat H.)
  15. Divine Calm (Divine Calm)
  16. LA Brain Terrain (Adrienne)
  17. Hurty Elbow (Hubert Sorbet)
  18. My Euro-American Life (Claire)
  19. Ordinary Extraordinary (amandarin)
  20. So Anyway (Eden)
  21. Star Inside (Nicole)
  22. Ms Sisyphus (Ms. Sisyphus)
  23. American Twentysomething (Dariush)
  24. MattLandia (Matt)
  25. I Am What I Am (Elvina)
  26. (insert blog name here) (Nicole)
  27. All Things Jennifer (Jennifer)
  28. Where's My Lightbulb? (Kathleen)
  29. You Don't Know Jax (Jacquie)
  30. signifying nothing (Verbify)
  31. work in progress... (Suze)
  32. Life After Work (*lynne*)
  33. Secondhand Tryptophan (Karl)
  34. Chronic Listaholic (SJ)
  35. harmonyinline (harmonyinline)
  36. ilaxSTUDIO (Kim)
  37. Jill Writes (Jill)
  38. Down With Pants (Brandon)
  39. Der Auslander (Mike B)
  40. ~unsettled~ (Kathleen)
  41. jen's 14,221 thoughts (Jen)

Update - Friday, February 24:

There is now a caveat to the contest detailed in my 2/23 post in which we need to avoid posting about historical figures that Pauly already features in his book.  If you are interested in participating and would like to know who is included in the book, contact me via e-mail or comment and I'll let you know.

However, to make up for it and to make this contest more enticing, Pauly is offering prizes.  The top three bloggers throughout the course of the campaign will receive autographed, first-edition copies of the book.  Entries will be judged by Pauly himself.  So make them good!


Update - Monday, February 27:

Lostblogsbadge_2With all the people that are now discovering this contest thanks to the plugs on Words for my Enjoyment, The Lost Blogs Google Group, and Mikey's site, I felt it would be a good idea to get all the information that is on both of my posts right here. Yes, it is a bit duplicitous (oooohhh, nice word!), but it keeps people from having to click all over the place.

So the final bit of information I would need to transfer over from my other post would be that I now have a badge that you can use on your blogs to promote the contest a bit. If you feel so inclined, please steal this badge and post on your own site. I only ask that you link it back to this post (permalink - http://kapgar.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/02/im_just_a_soul_.html)


Update - Thursday, March 16:

We have now broken 20 participants! I really like how this is shaping up!


Update - Sunday, March 19:

Thanks to Pauly's additional post about the contest, we have another four participants. There may even be more when people log into their RSS readers after the weekend.


Update - Sunday, March 19:

This is just the coolest damn thing. Jennifer of All Things Jen(nifer) has created a blogroll of all the participants in this contest. I will add it to my own blog come April 1. But if any of you would like to steal it now, feel free. Just copy and paste the following bit of code somewhere in your sidebar. As new people sign up for the contest, Jen will add them to the roll. The change will be automatic and you will not have to do a single thing to the blogroll as it exists on your blog.

[script language="javascript" type="text/javascript" src="http://rpc.blogrolling.com/display.php?r=7058c93bc64ba5aed8ef55f05048160c"][/script ]

Important Note: Replace all instances of [ and ] with < and > (if I don't sub out the [ and ] here in this post, it will show up as the actual blogroll and you'll never see the code you need to use). You should also leave the extra space after "/script", seems to work better that way.


Update - Friday, March 24:

And now we have 30. This is officially freaking me out that this idea has caught on so well.


Update - Sunday, April 9:

It looks like we'll be kicking off this shindig tomorrow with 40 participants!

Good luck to all involved!


Update - Monday, April 10:

Okay, I pray this is the last time I have to update this particular post (somehow I doubt that will actually be the case). But, some have come and some have gone and now we're sitting pretty at 41 participants. And the contest is already well under way. Some of you have posted some magnificent first entries. I stand in awe. Keep up the great work!


Update - Monday, May 22:

Now that it's all been over and done for quite some time and the book has been released to the mainstream public, it's time for my absolute final update to this post. The one for posterity's sake. Just in case someone does a search for this page and only finds this information, I figured I may as well give you some handy links to my entries for this contest. Here you go...

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | The Grand Reveal


Here we go Steelers, here we go...

I got an e-mail from my grandma this morning.  Being the bit Pittsburgh Steelers fan that she is, what was attached to the message was no surprise whatsoever.  Well, especially considerig she told me about it the night before and I asked her to sent it to me.

It's a series of photos from the Steelers victory parade in Pittsburgh.  They were taken by my mom's aunt, Judy, and compiled in a Powerpoint slideshow and it's really nice.  Some of these photos are truly stunning as the crowd turnout is just unbelievable.

I was not at the victory parade for the White Sox after they won the World Series last year, but the photos and video footage that I have seen make it pale in comparison to these Steelers photos.

Even if you are not a football or Steelers fan, you've gotta check these out.  Particularly the one of the parking deck.  Wow.

This file is a little over 3MB in size.  So, if you have a dial-up connection, it may take a little time.  Be patient, it's worth it.


Lay your hands on me...

Though it admittedly took me longer than I had hoped to finish it, I don't want you to think I'm the sort of person that doesn't complete the jobs he starts.  To that end I present...

The finished book shelf photos!!

(...and there was much rejoicing.  Yay.)

The finished bookshelf
This is the finished book shelf, all stained and assembled.

The bookshelf...
The shelf in place in our hallway complete with books and a couple stray VHS tapes.  Ironic considering we don't have a VCR hooked up anymore.

The bookshelf in place
I somehow managed to make it the perfect height to be flush with the railing boards in our hallway.  That was the plan, but not the expectation.  Yet, sometimes, things do work out as planned.  Rare, but they do.


You ain't a nuthin' but a houn' dog...

I just don't get this whole Westminster Kennel Club fixation.

I guess the competition recently took place and a couple of the people I work with were talking about it the other day.  They seemed shocked and dismayed that I don't watch it and never have.

I argued that I have never known a person who has watched it... that I know of.

However, since that day, it seems like Westminsterites are crawling out of the woodwork.  I hear reference made to it all over the place including, of all places, a Pittsburgh Steelers' podcast.  WTF?

What is the fascination with watching overmade dogs run around in circles and hop over barriers and dance with their owners?  It just seems like a waste of time to me. Always struck me as a canine equivalent to a child beauty pageant.  Jon-Benet Ramsey as a dog, anyone?

Am I missing something?  Is there some higher purpose to this competition that makes it so much fun to watch?

Please tell me.  My scalp is going to bleed out if I keep scratching it any longer.


Be my, be my, be my, be my Yoko Ono... oh no...

I did make it in the Aurora Beacon News! 

I've got a few quotes towards the end of the article.  It's really pretty exciting.  The writer did a pretty good job on the article as a whole.  I'd recommend reading the whole thing if you have the time.

Here's a link to it on the ABN site.  But, just in case the Beacon News doesn't archive articles or they charge for access down the line, I'm including the text in the extended post at the bottom of this entry...

Misccoldplay

On a musical aside...

This isn't good news for all the fans of Coldplay out there. 

Apparently the band may go on extended hiatus

Does that mean that they're broken up?  Typically, yes it does. 

"Hiatus" is just a kind way to break the news to your fans that you can't stand each other any more and want to try new things. 

By saying "hiatus," you've given them hope that you may still get back together and you leave the door open to that possibility. 

However, it also is a very effective way to ease your fans into life post-band.  You leave the door open to the possibility of getting back together whilst introducing fans to your own solo music, your new bandmates, new style, etc.  If they like it, you keep venturing further away from the band until it's too difficult to come back or you have too much solo success to ever want to go back to the old formula.  However, if your new ventures fail miserably, you can easily return to the band fold.

Sure, the band may get back together way down the line, after everyone's given up all hope of it ever happening.  As Glenn Frey said on The Eagles' "Hell Freezes Over" album, "just for the record, we never broke up, we just took a 14-year vacation."

But that's more the exception than the norm.

Take N*SYNC.  They had decent success as a band.  However, they went on hiatus and tried their own thing for a while.  One of them acted, one tried to become an astronaut in addition to acting, two of them did God-only-knows what, and the other went solo.  However, when four of the bandmates tried to bring the band back from the dead, the fifth member, Justin Timberlake, whose solo career has skyrocketed due to an infectiously catchy album (yeah, even I listen to it), nixed the idea.  He didn't want to give up his solo success.

And I see this happening with Coldplay. Chris Martin, the lead singer, has a very big name in the music industry due to both his success with Coldplay and his marriage to actress Gwyneth Paltrow.  People know who he is and this fact will benefit him greatly.

It's the Timberlake Effect.  Justin did his own thing after great success with the band, but also got himself further into the limelight due to a string of tabloid-worthy relationships and the infamous "wardrobe malfunction" at Super Bowl XXXVIII (does that equal 38?).

But it could also be blamed on the Ono Effect.  No, not Apolo Ohno the speedskater, but Yoko Ono, the homewrecker as many prefer to remember her.  She's the one that came into John Lennon's life and gave him all these new creative ideas that, many claim, resulted in the break up of The Beatles.

Is Gwyneth the new Yoko Ono?  Well, the newest Ono, that is, since Kate Hudson married Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes and they, soon after, went on hiatus, as well?

I hate to be such a celebrity whore right now, but you know it's going to happen.  Coldplay fans will blame her.  It happened with Hudson and Robinson.  I remember reading it all over the Web.  This will happen, too, if it hasn't already.

Continue reading "Be my, be my, be my, be my Yoko Ono... oh no..." »


Smoke on the water, a fire in the sky...

Miscsmokedetector I hate smoke detectors.  I hate them.  I hate them.  I. Hate. Them.

Why?

Because they're too hypersensitive when they don't need to be.

Take, for example, this morning.  I woke up early to make pancakes and bacon and juice for Katie as a breakfast in bed for her birthday.  There was no smoke in the kitchen or living room at all.  No sign whatsoever.  Then the smoke detector starts going off.

Katie's still asleep and it's chirping like there's no tomorrow.

And the stupid reset button never works.

So much for surprise.

I jumped up and twisted and tore the thing off the ceiling, ripped the cables out of the back of it, and then got the battery out.  Despite all this, it still does the "low battery" chirp every minute.  No power source and it still beeps.  So I put the damned thing in the garage to let it cool its sensors a bit.

Why do I have this strange feeling that the thing would fail to work in the case of a real fire?

Anyway.

When I finished cooking, I took the food upstairs and found that Katie was still asleep, but with one of my pillows firmly smothered on top of her head.  C'est la vie.

Happy birthday, hon, despite the rude awakening.


What words you say...

Yesterday afternoon, the phone in my office rang.

Me: "Kevin Apgar."

Him: "Hi.  This is so-and-so with the Aurora Beacon-News.  You recently answered our request about iPod playlists and I wanted to follow up with a few questions if that's okay with you."

A little background information:
I work in public relations and our Media Relations Director (MRD) is always looking for people on campus to take part in media requests.  He'll receive random requests for information that local newspapers send out in bulk to their contact lists and our MRD tries to forward them on to people that he feels might be good sources of information.  It can be a request for any number of topic areas from academic or religious information all the way on down to experts on Harry Potter.

Mine just happened to be about iPods and what the top ten songs are in my playlist.  The MRD gave me the request and I replied to it.

And, a couple weeks later, I got a callback about it.

Oh, and he really did have a name.  But, for the life of me, I'll be damned if I can remember it.

Him: "So you fell right in the middle of the range of ages of people who responded to the request."

Me: "Really?"

Him: "Yep.  I had kids as young as 11 and people as old as 60 respond."

Me: "Wow."

Him: "Yeah, I never expected that good a turnout.  But it's given me a lot of information to choose from."

Me: "I'll bet it has."

So we sat around and talked music for about 10-15 minutes.

Wow, what a great break in the day.  Just talk to someone about music in the middle of the workday. Those are very welcome breaks.  Especially when the person is knowledgeable enough themselves.  I haven't had someone in the office with whom I could talk music since Eric moved to Michigan, so this was a great reprieve.

We talked about ways in which I acquire music (my collection, Eric, the library, and the iTunes Music Store), whether I support the concept of peer-to-peer sharing networks (split... I don't support piracy, but I think it's fine to use P2P to find out if you like something enough before buying it... I like to know what I'm spending my hard-earned money on ahead of time), if I've ever used P2P (back in the day when Napster was free and in some early versions of Limewire to do exactly what I described above), and what I think of the RIAA (a joke that generally just puts out shit music, charges way too much for it, and constantly creates policies and initiates lawsuits that drive more and more people to want to take part in piracy instead of concentrating their efforts on finding a positive, viable solution).

It really was a great conversation and I hope that some of my input finds its way into the article.  I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't, though, since I've been interviewed before and all my information was cut from the final article.

If it does make it in there, I'll either link to it or repost the entire article here.

It would be cool if I get in there.

Miscfranzferdinand On the music front, Alex and Nick from Franz Ferdinand were given the 20 questions by Playboy this month (I know this from reading Right Thoughts, not from reading Playboy).  One of the questions pertained to how digital downloads and MP3 players, specifically the iPod, affect music sales...

PLAYBOY: Some musicians aren’t very happy about the iPod.

NICK: I’m not quite sure.  I think if you’re in one place, it’s nice to have an actual album, a record sleeve, the lyrics.  So there will always be that element of wanting to own something and not just have a song on a hard drive.  But I know I travel a lot - and I’ve always liked to travel light - I don’t like to have a lot of possessions.  What I do is buy a CD and stick it in and rip it.  Then I can listen to it and have it with me even if I lose the CD or give it away.

ALEX: I like the idea that, because of downloading, people are going to buy songs only if they are good.  I think that’s a positive thing.  It means lazy bands aren’t going to get away with giving you one hit single and an album full of filler.  We like the idea that every song should stand up in its own right so you don’t have to listen to a song in the context of an album to understand it.  I suppose that’s why I’m sympathetic to the download environment.

Alex's response is right on the money.  That really sums it up perfectly, doesn't it?  Yet the RIAA hasn't learned anything, have they?

And I just found this article from the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) in which the RIAA says that copying CDs to an iPod should not constitute "fair use."  Good luck with that one.  Asshats.


I love you...

Today is, indeed, Valentine's Day and I'd like to wish all of you a happy one.

V-Day well wishes are running rampant in the blogosphere, admittedly.  And that's exactly what you're going to find here today, as well.  So, if you are hoping to avoid a post about love and other sappy stuff, visit Pauly's post.  He's catering to those that are wholeheartedly (couldn't resist it) attempting to stay away.

Today's post is for Katie and, I suppose, for anyone else who is still reading.  But, it's really for Katie.  The rest of you are invited to read.  Hence why I posted it here.

My Katie,

We've been through quite a few of these together now.  And I still can't believe you're willing to soldier through it by my side.

Before you, Valentine's Day meant nothing to me whatsoever.  It was just a day.  A day in which lonely people fretted or couples around me were either legitimately happy or feigning it for the sake of fitting in with their love-obsessed surroundings.  I never cared much about it seeing as how I was usually the former.

Mischeartarrow Then we met. 

And I suddenly had reason to look forward to this day.

I try to tell you all the time that I love you and that you mean the world to me.  And I truly hope you realize that this is the truth.  Don't ever think that I'm saying it just to say it. 

Maybe I'm saying it while staring deep into your eyes. 

Perhaps we're on the phone when I say it. 

Other times, it may be said quickly in passing as I'm heading out the door to work. 

Whatever the circumstances, it never diminishes in meaning.  I mean it every time I say it.  And I never want you to forget it.

You are the world to me.  Without you, I would be a shell of a human being.  You may not believe that, but I know it for a fact.  You have given me reason to want to be a better person.  To try harder in life.  To strive.

I love the time we have together.  I love what we do when we are together.  I don't care what it is.  It could be something as mundane and unromantic as housework, but with you, it's always more fun.  Being with you makes anything enjoyable.

I know that things don't always work out the way we hope they do.  As they say, "even the best laid plans..."  But that's part of life.  How we deal with these setbacks and roadblocks is the most important thing.  We can let them stop us, or we can push on through and make the most of what we do have and keep trying to obtain the seemingly unobtainable. 

I like to think we are making the most of what we do have.

I like to think I am making the most of what I have.

You.

I love you... with all my heart, all my mind, all my body, all my soul.

Happy Valentine's Day, hon.

-Kevin

(image from www.rosiespitutorials.com)


One of these things is not like the others...

Since first attempting to play with the new network interface for my local library, I've been a mad user.  In just a couple weeks time, I've checked out nearly 40 CDs.  Considering I'd been away for a little over two months as they changed their interlibrary network affiliation, it's been a welcome breath of fresh air to finally be checking out CDs again. 

Heck, even the librarians noticed I was gone and made mention of it when I came back in again for the first time a couple weeks ago.  You know it's bad when the librarians remember you.  And not because you're a chronic late returner, either.

Well, I was checking my online library account to see what CDs were now in stock that I had placed holds on and I found one in my list that just stood out from the rest.  One of those that makes you ask, "what the hell was I thinking?"  It doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the holds I placed.

Gee, I wonder which one it is...

Misclibrarylist

Sorry, Katie and I loved the scene in last week's Scrubs when Turk (Donald Faison) airdances to "Poison."  That alone made this CD worth checking out.

On a related aside, I'm proud of our library network for not alphabetizing "Los Lobos" by using the word "Los."  It's an article and, using the rules of alphabetization, you do not take "a," "an," and "the" into consideration when alphabetizing.  And "los" is just Spanish for "the."  I've seen so many places use "Los" to sort this band name and it's just wrong.


Beautiful friend, the end...

Okay, so it took us a bit longer than we had hoped.  Something like four weeks longer than we had hoped.  But we did it!  We finished watching seasons 1-4 of 24.  And it's about damn time, I tell ya.  It's been killing me to see all these TiVosodes of 24, season 5, accumulating in our "Now Playing" list (now up to seven hours worth of this season saved) and knowing that I can't watch them until Katie and I finished season 4.  I was not going to watch them without her because I want us to both be able to enjoy the surprise together.

But, we're done.  Now we can watch!  Woo hoo!



Episodes Elapsed: 96 (seasons 1-4 done)
Episodes Remaining: 0
Season 5 Premiere: Jan. 15 (+4 weeks)
Official 24 Web site


Take me back one more time, Spanish rose...

I love foreign languages.  If there were enough time in the day, I would master dozens of them just because I find it fun and mentally stimulating to learn a new way to speak.  This is probably the reason why I majored in Spanish as an undergrad and still took a German course during my junior year just for kicks.

Katie knows full well of my love of foreign languages.  And she loves to have fun with me as a result of it. Whether it is creating some sort of Spanish catch phrase that she uses constantly or completely butchering some statement in Spanish to see if I can figure out what she's saying, she will do it.  It's quite funny, too.

Take, for example, yesterday... we were driving into downtown Geneva to run some errands.  She needed to pick up a special order item from a home decorating store and I wanted to drop off some CDs I checked out of the library.

Katie: "So where do you want to go first?"

Me: "I don't care."

Katie: "Voy a boobie-ortega!"

Me: "Say what?"

Katie: "Voy a boo-bie-or-TE-ga!"

Me: "What the hell are you trying to say?  Wait!  Library?  Biblioteca!"

Katie: "Si!  Voy a boobie-ortega!"

I couldn't stop laughing.  I tried to correct her on it a few more times, but gave up.  It became a running joke the rest of the night.

Okay, we're strange that way.  Deal with it.


Big cheese, make me...

I hate days like today.

It's a beautiful day in terms of it being nice and bright; however, it's in about the low 30s.  What a way to ruin sunshine.

There can only be one way to salvage a day like this.  It requires a special sort of lunch and I decided that this day definitely deserves this treatment.  When Katie gets home from class, we will both be changing into pajamas and spending the day inside with grilled cheese sandwiches (using deli cheese, of course) and chicken noodle soup (Progresso Chicken with Homestyle Noodles)... yum.

It's the only way.

As I typed this, the clouds started to lurk over the sunshine and now, unless there are packing peanuts falling from the sky, I think it's starting to snow.

Nope, I'm not going out at all.


We are up for sale...

For a guy who claims to be such a big geek, I can really be behind the curve on some things.

For one, Katie and I didn't join the TiVo revolution until last September... nearly two years after most of our friends had DVR service.  Even my tech unsaavy brother had DVR before we did.  Well, we made up for that by being the first to have our TiVos wirelessly networked in our home.

Second, we don't do online banking.  There's just something freaky to us about clicking a button and having money removed from our accounts.  We will check our checking and savings balances online, but we won't do bill paying.  I don't know that we ever will.  That's a big leap of faith.

Third, I'm way behind on the eBay movement.  Granted I did buy an Atari 2600 and accessories from a combination of eBay, uBid, and Amazon Auctions back around 1998, I stopped any sort of auction activity immediately thereafter.  Until my fustercluck last year buying Katie a Mark Grace jersey.  That just wasn't pretty.

And I've never tried auctioning anything on eBay before, either.  Something about the PayPal deal and having to register a checking account with their service really turned me off.

Miscebay_1However, I, like Jackie, have now jumped on the eBay sellers bandwagon.  The difference being that she was selling for charity and I'm selling purely for me (at least in this instance).  Perhaps some future sales will have a more benevolent purpose, but, right now, I'd like to save up for some stuff we need around the house.

To this end, I opened a new checking account through my brother in law's bank and am using that exclusively for online selling (much safer than compromising our primary account) and have set up all the details to allow for me to rid ourselves of our growing plethora of dust-collecting crap.

It should be an interesting experience.

And I've already got several other people who, if this works out okay, want to sell stuff through me for a commission.  Well, sure.  Why would I say no to extra money?

So, here it is... not the prettiest and flashiest eBay auction, but a good one, I think.  I'm starting small here.  But, if you are interested in placing a bid on a limited-edition, German-imported, cowskin-covered copy of Aerosmith's "Get A Grip" album, have at it...


Yoshimi, they don't believe me, but you won't let those robots defeat me...

Last night, I witnessed the beginning of the end.  It's horrible!  It's a travesty!

Actors on television are being replaced with cyborgs!

Katie and I were watching this week's episode of Love Monkey which was to guest star Nicky Katt of Boston Public fame playing a movie director tapped to create Wayne's (Teddy Geiger) debut music video.  However, it was not Nicky Katt!  It was some freakish robot that just looked like Nicky Katt.  Or maybe it was Nicky Katt with some kind of alien probe attached to him.

How can I tell you may be asking?

Well, it's a minor detail, but if you watch the episode and look on the right side of his head, some of his wiring is exposed in the form of a small cybernetic protrusion that starts at his ear and sticks out slightly in a line from his ear to his mouth.

And this problem is getting even more serious as I'm seeing normal people walking around the streets with similar protusions/implants.  They scare me!  How long until some alien entity tries to replace me with a cyborg me or they try to give me a cranial implant.  NO!!!

MiscbluetoothOkay, all funnin' aside.  I am, of course, talking about those ridiculous looking Bluetooth handsfree cellphone headsets.  Aren't they the most absurd thing you've ever seen in your life?

Every time I see somebody wearing one, I want to walk up to them and rip it out to see if sparks start flying from their heads.  In my less violent moods, I want to flash them a Vulcan "V" handsign just to see how they respond, if at all.

What makes these things worse than normal handsfree units that people use with cellphones is that the users of these things leave them sitting in their ears regardless of if they are on the phone or not.

If the thing was piping in some kind of entertainment, maybe I could understand it.  Does a Bluetooth play MP3s?  I somehow doubt it.  So why leave it in 24/7?

As it stands, the morons who use these things as though they are a fashion accessory look like a suited-up Colonial Marine from Aliens.  Actually, the Marines wore their headgear on their helmets, as I recall.  But it's the closest comparison I can come up with.

Honestly, I think that this is the first step in a mind-control takeover of the human race.  I'm waiting to discover that the U.S. government is pumping subliminal pro-Bush propaganda through Bluetooth devices in an attempt to make us all unconscious believers.

It's the start of the apocalypse, I tell ya!

Yeah, it's been a weird day.


And I want to thank you...

My name is Kevin and I am a geek.

Okay, please stop shrugging your shoulders and rolling your eyes thinking, "so this is news how?"

Well, like any good 12 stepper, I now know on whom I should focus the blame for my "affliction."  The mea culpa is on the part of my parents.

Yep, you read that right.  It's all my parents' fault that I am the geek I am today.

It started back in 1977 with a little movie called Star Wars that I'm told did decently well in theaters.

Being the conscientious parents that they are, my mom and dad screened the movie themselves before taking me to see it.  It looked like the sort of film that a child could possibly enjoy, but the concept of a summer blockbuster film was still a fairly novel idea in 1977.  Could such a film be family friendly?

They ventured out and saw it and, from all accounts, enjoyed it.  So they later took me to see it.  Whether this was during the initial theatrical release in 1977 or one of the subsequent releases in 1978 or 1979 is something of which I am unsure.

I remember nothing of the affair whatsoever.  Did I enjoy it?  Apparently enough so that my parents started the mad chain of investment in Kenner's rapidly expanding line of Star Wars action figures, vehicles, and playsets.

I quickly amassed the toys and other non-toy-yet-still-Star-Wars-related paraphernalia like pajamas, bedsheets, Underoos, a watch, storybooks, books on record, and whatever else.  An early photo that my parents still display shows me on the stairs of our house in Rochester, NY, in my Star Wars pajamas holding on to an X-Wing Fighter and leering at the cameraperson with a "why am I here" look etched on my four-year-old face. 

Even then I was destined for a life behind the camera.

Enter 1980 and the release of The Empire Strikes Back.  Another great movie although I never truly appreciated it until I was much older and was able to lift it to the pantheonic top spot on my favorite movies of all time list (that spot is now occupied by The Shawshank Redemption with ESB in second place; sorry Han).

I know we saw this one in theaters as well, likely in Lexington, KY, but I don't remember actually seeing it.  I was now five years old.  I remember playing with Battlestar Galactica toys and watching Sanford & Son on TV right around this same time period, so I should remember seeing ESB quite well, but I do not. 

However, I do remember the toys that my parents continued to buy for me and that I also received as holiday gifts from everyone in my known universe.  My addiction was firmly entrenched.  And I do remember playing with the toys.  In fact, a friend of mine who owned the Dagobah Playset, would bring it over to my house and we would place it under the weeping willow tree in my backyard and flood the area around it with water.  Then we would crash an X-Wing Fighter through the branches and into the muck to recreate Luke Skywalker's first meeting with Yoda.

I told you I was a geek.

MiscrotjIn 1983, I went to see the third film in the series, Return of the Jedi.  And this one I remember quite well.  It was Wednesday, May 25, 1983, in Lexington, KY, and I should have been in school day.  Instead, my mom, along with the mom of two of my good friends, kept the trio of us home from school so we could see the first showing of the new film.

At eight years old, I was in heaven.  Or, at least, my closest mental approximation of it.

Afterwards, we dined at Long John Silver's.  Or maybe it was Captain D's.  Well, it was seafood.  That much I know.

The next day, I returned to school under the inquisitive stare of my second-grade teacher.  At some point in the day, the teacher looked at me and asked, "so how was Star Wars?"

I feigned ignorance.  "I don't know what you're talking about."

Of course, the confrontation piqued the interest of all my classmates who stopped what they were doing to watch the two of us.

"I know you went to see the new Star Wars movie yesterday, didn't you?"

"No.  I was home sick."

"I don't believe you, Kevin.  You're a huge Star Wars fan and the new movie came out yesterday.  I've got a pretty good idea that you were there with Charlie and Michelle Belden."

"Nope.  Sorry."

"Are you sure?  You can tell me the truth."

"I didn't see Star Wars yesterday," I stated authoritatively in hopes of ending the conversation and I buried my face in a book.

It wasn't over.

"I don't know, Kevin.  I still think you saw it."

I slammed my book down on my desk and said, "FINE!  I saw it!  Are you happy?  I saw Return of the Jedi yesterday!"

And the assault by my classmates went into full swing.  They crowded my desk.  They got up in my face.  They asked all the important questions.  "How was it?"  "Will I like it?"  "Would you see it again?" and, of course, "What happened?"

To that last question, I made my face appear appropriately somber, looked them in the eyes, and said, "Skywalker dies."

A hushed silence fell upon my classmates.  Their eyes grew larger than saucers and their jaws hung open limply.  I think I may have seen a tear or two.

I was an evil little shit.

But I was honest.  As I am being now when I claim that my geekdom is all my parents' fault. 

The fact that I saw two of the prequel movies with my brother on opening day despite being an "adult"...

The fact that I eagerly attended a midnight showing of Revenge of the Sith with my brother in law and another friend leaving my wife at home to sleep...

The fact that my heart still skips a beat each time I'm in Borders and I see one of those Master Replica FX Lightsabers near the register and I smile as I see a new generation of kids pick up the open-box model and ignite the blade...

The fact that I own three copies of the "Original Trilogy" set on VHS, including one very rare widescreen copy, and a copy of all six movies on DVD (although I categorically refuse to own a copy of the blasphemous "official" original trilogy DVD set released by Lucasfilm; mine are bootlegs of the original laserdiscs)...

The fact that I still like taking a run down the toy aisles in Target, Meijer's, and WalMart to see what's new while my wife races ahead so as not to be associated with me...

...they are all to be blamed squarely on my parents.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.  I love you.

(that's genuine, not sarcastic - just so it's not misinterpreted)


I'm coming clean, I'm coming clean...

Have you ever had the desire to just completely purge things from your life?  Not people, necessarily.  More like items, objects, collections of crap that have accumulated over the years.

In a recent episode of The Office, the crew at Dunder-Mifflin was taking part in a spring cleaning of their office in the middle of the winter.  One of the characters said that he was already done because he never keeps enough around to ever have to worry.  In fact, he said, if he quit or was fired, he could pretty much just up and leave.

Not that I'm planning on quitting my job and, I pray, I'm not on the cusp of being fired any time soon, but I've been looking around my office at all the crap that has built up over my five and a half years of employment here and I seriously want to get rid of a lot of it. 

MiscscarfaceLast week, I cleared out a bunch of the toys that I've had in here forever.  And now I'm looking around and I seriously want to tear down the posters on my walls as well as all the other stuff I have hanging up just to give myself a completely fresh start.  I'm sick of my same old, same old.  I'm tired of seeing Al Pacino as Scarface on my wall.  I'm tired of the few movie posters that are in here.  It's all just very old and stale.

Do any of you have any tips on what I can do to enliven this place a bit? 

What have you done in your own office space? 

Bear in mind, I work in an office, not a cubicle... well, actually, it's an office that is made out of a bedroom that was built into the garage of a converted house across the street from campus.  Follow all that?  It does have four walls, crappy carpet, some shelves on the wall, and lots of bulletin board space. 

Float me some ideas.  Please.  My eyes are bored.

Oh God, I just found one of those little calendars that banks hand out pinned up on one of the bulletin boards in here and it hadn't been changed since July 2005.

help.


Signs, signs, everywhere there's (misspelled) signs...

One of my major job responsibilities that I hate is my role as a proofreader.

No, I don't hate doing it.  I don't despise the time I spend performing this job function.  And I don't resent having to push my personal projects aside to proof something else.

What I hate is the fact that the act of proofreading, quite often, spills over into my real life. 

And it drives me nuts.

I find myself, on a regular basis, proofreading newspapers, books, and magazines that I read.  I will proofread the over-the-shoulder call-out boxes and news tickers that scroll along the bottom of the screen during news broadcasts (and when you already have a personal problem with the validity of news reporting; seeing typos in midbroadcast does not help restore your faith).  I am constantly correcting closed captioning on television programs (that's the worst; especially when they are attempting "real-time" captioning of live events).

But I've even gone so far as to sit there and proofread the little things that I should truly resist the urge to proof.

For example, a couple years ago, Katie and I were at a wedding in the Quad Cities on the Illinois/Iowa border.  It was a wedding for the older brother of one of Katie's neighbors and childhood friends.  Here we are in the church for the ceremony and I lean over to Katie and point out that they misspelled such and such in the wedding program.

I've even found typos on my blog.  That's the worst... when a chronic proofer can't keep his own site free from errors.  Ouch.  I try to go back and correct them when they are part of my posts.  But I'm also aware that, each time I repost with corrections, the post shows up in your RSS aggregators as a new one and I don't want to screw with all your heads.  So, if it's not too terrible, I may force myself to overlook it.

I'm horrible.  I admit it.  But I can't stop.  It's a compulsive addiction (admittedly a bit redundant, but it helps get the point across, doesn't it?).

I was looking at my iPod while reading a book today at lunch to see what song was playing.  It was a song by Guster called, according to my iPod, "Dissovle."

This irks me to no end. 

MiscgracenoteWhen you insert a CD in your computer and you rip the tracks to whatever MP3 playback software you prefer to use, the CD information is typically loaded to your program from a site known as the Compact Disc Database (CDDB) run by a company called Gracenote.  A digital identifier embedded on CDs will be read by your MP3 software and sent to the CDDB to find the disc information specific to the CD you are ripping.  Usually, it will only come up with one set of data.  But, occasionally, your program will show a pop-up window with multiple options and you have to blindly guess which it is, especially since you typically wind up with two of the same titles and cannot see what the difference is between them (it can be a difference of a track name, which typically does not show in the pop-up).

It's a great idea that has been licensed out by many companies for its utilitarian nature.  God knows I would never want to sit there and catalog all that information each time I load a new disc's worth of tracks into my computer.  But there are some faults that pain me due to my OCD-like proofreading nature.

I don't know if this is the case anymore, as iTunes does not offer me this option, but I do know that users were once responsible for uploading CD information to this site.  If the CDDB has never registered a CD that you put in your computer, you were able to upload that information to the database manually.  I did it once or twice several years ago when digital downloads on the Web were still in their infancy.

But this is dangerous because CDDB always loaded the information submitted to their site automatically.  No fact checking, no spelling or grammar correction, nothing.

If I had been timely enough about it, I could have taken credit for writing Eminem's "Lose Yourself" for myself and thus made a claim to his Oscar.  Not that it would've held up and not that I would have even bothered with the process and the legal fees.  But, I could have had my name out there for all to see.

Sometimes, we are also stuck with information that is not spelled correctly. 

And I wind up finding those typos when I read the display screen on my iPod.  Yes, it can be corrected, and, yes, I do correct it.  But it's a hassle.  I just wish people would take the time to check their typing before submitting this information to the CDDB.

However, they often do not. 

And we wind up with Guster's "Dissovle." 

And I become progressively more insane.


No! We ain't gonna take it...

I've gotta say that this whole James Frey thing has been blown out of proportion.  People want his head on a pike because he embellished on his memoirs.  They want their money back!

Yes, he lied.  He admits it.  He's feeling the wrath of America (and some of the rest of the world, perhaps).  And I'm sure it's not that much fun for him, either.  And then, to have Oprah, who initially supported you, turn her back on you and attack you for an entire episode of her show.  Well, that's just going a bit far.

I'm not condoning the fact that he lied.  It's not right.  But it's not something to get this worked up about.  Especially when we have a president whose lies have had much graver consequences.  And we're worrying about a book.  Way to prioritize, America!

Well, I'm going to jump on the smaller of the two bandwagons here and lend my support for James Frey.  And I'm doing so symbolically.

My attack shall be exacted against the two-faced witch who made demonizing this guy chic.  That's right... the Queen of Sting, Oprah Winfrey.

The Cover: Pre Assault

The Cover: Mid Assault

The cancer removed

Eliminating the cancer forever

The Cover: Renewed

Now, isn't the end result that much better than the original?  I thought so, too.  And it felt so good to do.

Sorry the torch picture isn't clearer.  It was a bit of a race against time as it was burning awfully close to my fingers by the time the camera reset for another shot.  So, you'll just have to deal with it.

People, it's a book.  Move on with your lives and take this as a cue that you should take anything you read (books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) with a grain of salt.


I... wanna be... anarchy...

In response to my post from a few days ago and because SJ requested it, Eric wanted it, and Alissa intends to read the book soon, I bring you...

(drum roll, please)

The Chuck Klosterman Killing Yourself to Live iPod (or lesser MP3 player) Playlist:
Songs to accompany you as you read this novel, annotated by chapter

As a note, not every single one of these tracks are songs that Chuck raved about.  Maybe they are not his favorites.  Perhaps he bitched about them.  And, some of these songs may not have even been directly named by Chuck or I might indicate "any song" as opposed to an actual track because he spoke in detail either about the band, one of his stops on his trip, or of listening to the entire album instead.  However, they are essential to the story all the same.

Oh, and note that the albums listed are not necessarily the only albums on which you can find these tracks.  These are either the original studio album on which they were included or the album that Chuck suggests.

Chapter 1: The Day Before the First Day -

  • The Sex Pistols, "Bodies," Never Mind the Bollocks: Here's the Sex Pistols
  • The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the U.K.," Never Mind the Bollocks: Here's the Sex Pistols

Chapter 2: The Night Before the First Day -

  • The Rolling Stones, "Undercover of the Night," Undercover
  • The Scorpions, "I Can't Explain," Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell charity compilation
  • Cinderella, "Move Over," Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell charity compilation

If you like what you've seen so far, the remainder of the chapters are in an extended post.

Continue reading "I... wanna be... anarchy..." »


Pittsburgh's goin' to the Super Bowl...

In my heart of hearts, I am a fan of the Chicago Bears.  There is no questioning that loyalty.  No matter who the Bears play, no matter how pitifully bad the Bears are, I will cheer for them.

Miscsteelers_1But, that doesn't mean I don't like other teams as well.  And one of those teams I like, and will be rooting for this weekend in Super Bowl XL (sounds like a shirt size moreso than a sporting event), is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No, I'm not just some fair-weather fan pulling for the team that is having obvious success.  I actually have pretty strong Steeler roots in the fact that just about my entire family was born, raised, and lived in and around Pittsburgh for a majority of their lives. 

My mom and dad were born there.  If not born there, then my grandparents spent nearly their entire lives there.  Almost all my mom's aunts, uncles, and cousins still live there. Both of my parents were fans of the Steelers and the Pirates.  Both lived there when the 1960 Pirates won the World Series off Bill Mazeroski's game-winning homerun.  Katie and I have old Pirates memorabilia on display in our office along with our Cubs, Bears, and Bulls stuff.  The very first two baseball cards my dad ever bought for me when I decided I wanted to start collecting were of Pirates legends Dave Parker and Willie Stargell.

So, it's second nature to root for Pittsburgh.  And I've got another friend, Jason, who is a lifelong Cubs/Bears fan who is also a secondary Pirates/Steelers fan for the same reason.  So I'm in good company this weekend.

I've been talking to Nicole of Not Content to Crawl on e-mail lately and she told me that she and her husband were taking a trip to Pittsburgh pretty soon and she was wondering if I knew of any places that they should visit.

Well, despite my steeping in all things Pittsburgh, it hit me how few times I've been there.  To be honest, I don't think I've visited since the very early 80s, soon after my grandparents, who were my last nuclear ties to the city, moved to Florida to retire.  In other words, I was very little help to her.

This also means that I have very few memories of the city whatsoever, which is sad.  I think most of my memories are second hand from my parents telling me stories about the times we visited.  The predominant one being about me being very young and getting sick in the booth of some restaurant.

In fact, I can only really remember three things about Pittsburgh:

  1. Pulling up to my grandparents' house, which I remember in pretty good detail, including a vase that used to be on display in a front window of their house.  Even Nano was shocked I remembered that one.  She still has that vase in her house in Florida.
  2. Being in the garage of one of my great uncles who had a giant tub of pennies and having him tell my brother and I that we could keep whatever we could hold in our two hands.
  3. A food stand owned by one of my relatives that sold Pac-Man Pizza.  Pure marketing brilliance.  A personal pizza that is less one slice (to account for Pac-Man's mouth) and only has a single piece of pepperoni for an eye and, yet, you can upcharge for it as it was very culturally relevant.  Genius!

I'm realizing that Katie and I really need to visit that city to create some new memories.  Heck, there are a lot of places Katie and I "need" to visit.  Guess we should add this one to the list.

God that list is long.


99 ways to die (we're not ready to see you yet)...

I found this post on Roveberg.  His instructions are to use Google to discover how you and, perhaps, others are going to die.  Basically, just type the following line -- "[your name] was killed by" -- in Google.  Put your first name only in where appropriate and use the quotation marks.

Sound morbid?  Well, yes, it is.  But I am one morbidly curious bastard.  So, of course, I checked it out.

Here's what I got...

"Kevin was killed by drug-dealers because his brother had failed to pay a debt" - thanks for getting my back, bro.  Really appreciate it.

"Kevin was killed by the Chicago police—shot in the back of the leg and head" - actually, the CPD somehow wound up in several of the results involving my death and that's just on the first page.  Really makes me want to never visit the city again.  And it's even creepier because I live so close to Chicago yet never prompted Google to search for Chicago-based results and here it found them anyway.

Both of these were the first result of my search.

A little further down the results page, though, we find...

"Kevin was killed by an alien that got loose in the facility" - alrighty then.  I apparently now work in Area 51.

But why end my fun there?  I figured, let's take this a bit further.  I decided to look up several family members and friends/bloggers.  Just in case you don't want to read them, avoid the extended post.

Continue reading "99 ways to die (we're not ready to see you yet)..." »


Music... makes the people... come together...

Have you ever wanted to have a soundtrack to your life?  I don't necessarily mean the songs that would play if a movie were made about your life; I'm talking about actually having music accompany your daily actions?  If you're about to do something questionable or mysterious, some kind of thriller-style music would play.  If you're getting romantic with your significant other, a sweet ballad would suddenly sound in the background.  That sort of thing.

Clearly I'm not the only one as this idea was covered in an episode of The Family Guy when Peter wished for his own personal soundtrack.  And, unless I'm completely on crack, I think this happened during one of J.D.'s (Zach Braff) internal monologues in Scrubs.

I'm not saying that I would want music playing every time I do something.  Peter Griffin's own foibles were enough to turn me off that idea.  But there are some moments when musical accompaniment would be great aside from having a stereo playing in the background.

MisckillingyourselfFor example, I'm currently reading Chuck Klosterman's Killing Yourself to Live, a book about Chuck's trip across America detailing the locations where famous rock n' roll deaths occurred.  Well, the book goes beyond that in his discussions about his own life and the roles that music has played in it.  And I thought music was a big part of my life.  Guess again.

And you probably thought I was going to talk about some precious moment in my life with Katie or some such, right?  I gotta keep some things to myself.

Anyway.

Reading this book is one of those experiences when a soundtrack would be great.  But it needs to be a specific soundtrack as this book references very specific songs and even particular lyrics.  Not just any old randomly selected music will do.

Over the course of the last couple of days, I have been listening to my iPod while reading this book.  It has made the experience more interesting as, on occasion, a song that has played has eerily mirrored the action or song referred to in the book.

But sometimes I find myself wanting to go a step further.  Like when Chuck talks about how Radiohead's album Kid A seemingly predicted the tragic events of 9/11.  Chuck actually talks about specific lyrics or sounds and he recommends listening to the album to hear what he's talking about.  Unfortunately, I didn't have that album on my iPod at the time.

Today, the chapter I was reading discussed how the first five seconds of Fleetwood Mac's "I Don't Want to Know" from Rumours marks his favorite moment of the entire album.  He's even gone so far as to detail its importance to Wilco's Jeff Tweedy during an interview.  And Tweedy agreed with him.

Damn, I would have liked to have been able to hear that song as I was reading that part of the book.  It's one thing to read about it, but to actually hear it as you read it would've made his words mean that much more.

Wouldn't it have been simple enough for Klosterman to have included, in his preface, a list of recommended albums to load on your iPod whilst reading his book?  I don't think that's asking so much.  The "Killing Yourself to Live" playlist or the like? 

It's quite obvious that he put as much thought into the music he details in his book as directors like Quentin Tarantino or Cameron Crowe do with the music in their movies.  To those two, the music is just as important as the script and acting and all the other elements that go into filmmaking. 

What if you were to try to watch Almost Famous with no music?  Not the same film, right? 

The same goes, but in reverse, for this book.  It could be so much more with the music he talks about playing along with it.  I don't think Klosterman needs to go out and pay licensing fees to include a soundtrack CD.  That's just ridiculously cost prohibitive.  However, a list of required tunes included in the beginning of the book can allow us the opportunity to decide if we want to create our own soundtrack.

Hmm... maybe I should include recommended songs when I write my review.  Good idea?  Does anyone, other than myself, really give a damn?

Great.  Now I feel the need to watch Almost Famous.